My name is Andre Essue and I graduated from Elon University in 2006. After Elon I attended graduate school at McDaniel College. In 2008, I joined the Peace Corps as a Community Health and Economic Development Volunteer. That extremely long title just means that I am a volunteer who focuses on HIV/AIDS education and I also work with small businesses. I do most of my volunteer work with the Elelloang Basali Weavers. Elelloang is group of 30 women who have started a small hand weaving business. I help educate the weaving group about basic small business operation and practices.
I have been in Lesotho about 8 months. Lesotho is very unique in that it is a small country which is completely surrounded by a larger country (South Africa). The terrain is mountainous which creates beautiful natural scenery. Because of the high altitude it is not unusual for Lesotho to receive snow fall during the winter months.
Before I go into exactly what it is that makes me truly enjoy my current experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I should clarify my intentions as a volunteer.
1) Am I saving the world? No. I don’t even know the whole world
2) Am I saving all the starving children in Africa? No. I am currently learning how to feed myself.
3) Am I ending poverty? No. My college loans make sure that I am one of the financially challenged individuals that make up the America.
4) Am I ending famine, disease, and war? No times 3! I think you get the point.
My two years here are focused on individual relationships. This to me is the most beautiful part of about my job and my life. Every day I get the opportunity to meet people and engage in a cross-cultural exchange. I get the opportunity to learn things about people and places first hand. This includes general knowledge but also specific things that you cannot gather from a travel book or a travel show. Once a mutual relationship and respect is formed, moments are created in which cultural and educational information can be exchanged.
Volunteering gives me the opportunity to represent the United States of America in a unique way. My daily conversations with people lead to laughing, smiling, crying, anger, frustration, happiness, and a lot of confusion. But I am confident that by the end of my service the relationships that I am able to build will lead me to a better understanding of Lesotho, Basotho, Africa, America and myself.